DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Skid Row holds the city’s largest concentration of homeless individuals. It also holds Los Angeles’ largest collection of organizations and people who work to help those living on the streets or in shelters.
Two local entities have reached significant milestones. The Midnight Mission, which feeds and shelters area denizens, is in the midst of celebrating its 100th birthday. Skid Row Housing Trust, which works to create affordable housing, just marked its first quarter century in business.
Los Angeles Downtown News spoke with the heads of the Midnight Mission and SRHT to talk about some achievements from the past and goals for the future.
The Midnight Mission
Location: 601 S. San Pedro St.
Past and Future: A century ago, Tom Liddecoat, a businessman and minister who was known as the “father of the poor,” began serving meals at midnight, following church services. That marked the founding of the Midnight Mission. For the past 17 years, the non-denominational nonprofithas been run by President and CEO Larry Adamson — he is one of only four executive managers the mission has had in 10 decades.
The good news, Adamson said, is that the mission is still here, helping those on the streets. The bad news, he adds, is that there’s still a need for the services they provide.
Adamson said the $7 million annual budget comes entirely from donations (except for one city contract for $180,000 to provide four 24-hour toilets to the public). He estimates that 500-1,200 meals are served per service, and there are three services a day. In 2012 and 2013, they served more than 1 million meals, and are poised to exceed that for 2014.
There are 250 beds, another 50 in a “Safe Sleep” program, and there is room for an additional 200 in the courtyard and dining room if there is severe weather. The mission also holds a gym, basketball court, weight room and library.
Adamson said the responsibilities of the mission have changed with the times. The facility functioned primarily as a federal relief station during the Great Depression. He noted that homelessness decreased during World War II, and during that time the Midnight reinvented itself as a place to help soldiers with food and housing as they re-acclimated to society.
In the 1960s and ’70s, said Adamson, there was an uptick in substance abuse. Again, Mission brass altered the program to assist drug addicts. The 1990s saw more homeless women and children on Skid Row than ever before, and the Mission opened the first homeless family center in Downtown.
The building was long located at Fourth and Los Angeles streets. It moved into a new $17 million location in 2005.
“We’ve been an agency that’s had its eye on the changing needs of the population that hangs on that lower rung of society’s ladder,” Adamson said. “We’ve been able to reinvent ourselves without ever losing the core purpose to feed and clothe the homeless.”
Skid Row Housing Trust
Location: 1317 E. Seventh St.
Past and Future: A quarter century ago, Skid Row Housing Trust completed its first projects, the Pershing Roma Hotel and the Genesis Hotel on Main Street, as places for people who’d been living on the streets, said executive director Mike Alvidrez. The projects materialized after a group of activists and business leaders came together and secured funds through low-income tax credits, public money and other means.
The formation of SRHT, said Alvidrez, was a milestone in helping the public understand the value of permanent supportive housing, which in addition to a bed gives individuals on-site services such as substance abuse counseling and medical care. In its first quarter century, SRHT created 26 housing projects. Most are in Downtown Los Angeles.
“We were able to target the people most in need of supportive housing, without regard for their mental health status or their recovery status,” said Alvidrez. “We could help the people with the most impactful disabilities.”
Highlights include the New Carver Apartments, which debuted in 2007 at 17th and Hope streets. SRHT’s most recent projects arethe Star Apartments at 240 E. Sixth St. and the New Genesis at Fifth and Main streets. Scheduled to begin leasing before the end of the year is the Pershing Hotel apartments at 500 S. Main St.
Perhaps SRHT’s most significant achievement, Alvidrez said, is the collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Officials and medical staff have even opened a clinic and offices on the ground floor of the Star.
With an annual budget of $5.5 million, comprised of donations and federal grants, SRHT continues to look for ways to develop housing and supportive housing programs.
“We want to create successful buildings where people can begin to regain their lives and undertake the transformation to become functioning members of the community,” Alvidrez said.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014